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Smart cards provide greatly increased security for multiple applications. A smart card's usefulness is based on its intrinsic portability and security. A typical smart card has the same dimensions as a standard credit card and appears to be very similar with the exception of a set of gold contacts. When inserted into a reader, these contacts provide power to a microprocessor located on the smart card; the smart card is thus able to store and process information, in particular cryptographic keys and algorithms for providing digital signatures and for use with other encryption. A major impediment to the widespread use of smart cards has been interoperability: the majority of smart cards from different vendors are not interoperable and therefore must use specific software and smart card readers. The NIST Information Technology Laboratory (ITL) is working with industry and other government agencies to provide interoperability specifications and guidelines to provide organizations with an open and standard method for using smart cards.
This site contains information about the smart card interoperability program and specification. It describes NIST's interoperability and conformance testing programs and serves as a road map for related information about smart cards. NIST and the General Services Administration have joined forces to establish and lead the Government Smart Card program in conjunction with other federal agencies and industry partners. The primary goal of the Government Smart Card program is to build a framework for smart card interoperability, enabling broad adoption of this critical technology by the public and private sectors.
"The release of the Government Smart Card Interoperability Specification is a significant event in the smart card world as it is the first comprehensive effort to address the interoperability requirements of the enterprise market.
It will become as important as Europay/Mastercard/Visa (EMV) specification is to the Payment market and Global System Mobile (GSM) specification is to the mobile telephony market."